If there is one thing everyone in NSW knows about Dominic Perrottet, it is probably that he has lots of children (seven).
The Liberal Party leant into that family-man image as hard as it could at its campaign launch on Sunday, assembling no less than 36 children to sit behind the Premier as he announced a raft of family-friendly policies.
A familiar flock of blue-shirted party faithful poured into an amphitheatre inside the Liverpool Catholic Club, in the key electoral battleground of Sydney’s south-west growth corridor.
The event began half an hour late and while waiting, the crowd was treated to an excruciatingly deafening playlist of AC/DC’s and Katy Perry’s , two tunes straight from campaign launch central casting.
Big-name guests John and Janette Howard received their customary standing ovation. But that was to be it for Liberal luminaries: there was no Scott Morrison, Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull and no Peter Dutton. No Gladys Berejiklian or Mike Baird either.
Treasurer Matt Kean delivered a 10-minute set of Liberal-branded stand-up comedy, painting a “scary picture” of Chris Minns’ first day in the state’s top job.
“He’s applied an extra dose of gel to the hair, he’s got Acca Dacca playing over the speakers,” Kean jibed, seemingly unaware the organisers were blasting AC/DC just minutes earlier.
Kean then imagined Premier Minns taking excitable phone calls from transport union boss Alex Classens, the gaming lobby and Eddie Obeid, and branded the Labor leader out of his depth. “The only policies he has are in 140 characters or less, usually accompanied by a selfie,” Kean taunted.
He then gave the stage to Perrottet’s wife Helen, who introduced a highly produced, US presidential-style campaign video replete with footage of their family life: prepping breakfast, fixing kids’ hair, assembling towers of lunchboxes.
The advertisement also featured some action-man shots of Perrottet pounding the pavement on his daily run around Parliament, the Domain, the Opera House and George Street.
The Premier took to the stage to the 1996 song by American alt-rockers Cake – which Perrottet’s colleagues reckon he chose himself, given his apparent penchant for the genre.
He delivered the day’s big announcement, a “future fund” for every NSW child kick-started by a $400 deposit from the government, to enthusiastic applause, including from the three dozen children assembled on stage behind him. It was, as the imagery stressed, all about the kids.
But the Premier’s best moment came when he spoke about gambling reform. He read out a letter from a 35-year-old NSW woman, Amanda, who wrote to him about poker machines. We were told Amanda identified herself as an addict of more than a decade, who had lost thousands and twice been to rehab. She begged him to keep fighting the vested interests of the gaming industry.
“Amanda, I can tell you, I will never stop fighting,” Perrottet told the party faithful, to cheers.
Throughout the launch, speaker after speaker assured us the Liberals had the “energy” to keep NSW moving forward; a none-too-subtle response to the perception that after 12 years, this government is on the tired side. At the height of Perrottet’s presentation, it seemed plausible the energy was there.
But the Americanisation of campaign launches, with their relentless focus on the leader, has the effect of downplaying the rest of the team, in the Coalition’s case, perhaps for good reason.
There were no big photo ops with Perrottet’s frontbench on Sunday, just his family and the army of youngsters recruited as his backdrop behind the podium.
For better or worse, the Perrottet project is a thoroughly one-man show – but a family man, don’t forget.
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